The technological singularity—or simply the singularity—is a hypothetical future point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization. This is one of the many definitions of singularity, but they have something in common: something surpassed all current human control or understanding. And it already happened, multiple times, so don’t be so afraid. AI won’t kill us this year. (hopefully)
The present: AI generated images
Of course all of us saw some AI generated paintings, and the curious people experimented with different prompts. However, the 9000th “victorian style catgirl” or “cool sci-fi cyberpunk wallpaper” is boring. While text2image can be really helpful, it just complements the stock photo market. AI depends on training data and can’t replace actual artists – yet. In the meantime, something really creative popped up: QR codes.
The original thread on QQ is down for me, so I can only tell, that I first read about it on 7 June. Not so fast forward to 12 June: Quick QR Art posted the first announcement in their Discord server, where you can generate your AI-enhanced cool QR code! This happened in just a week. One more week later the topic is mainstream, and Hugging Face has their own version of this. Cool, right? And concerning at the same time.
Was this the AI singularity?
For me, this is the tipping point. Because this happened so rapidly, I can’t expect any regular developer to keep up with this. You must be a specialist, dedicating all your professional time for the topic. Sure, following some tech influencers can give you some “insight” what happens, but that’s like reading a cheap gossip magazine. You get no real value from it.
Just one fun fact before digging deep into the history. A lot of companies claim that they are “agile” and do scrum and all those fancy things. In this context agile means “you can adapt fast to the changing environment, unlike waterfall”. The exact tasks/user stories are selected for that sprint, which is usually 1-3 weeks long, and 2 weeks is the most common. A total revolution happened during a single sprint. Talk about extreme programming! Today’s project management tools, frameworks and methods are not even remotely ready to handle this. But I’m afraid, even the developers can’t handle it.
The first few singularities
But before our AI overlords send us into camps, mention some of the singularities happened in the past. At least 3 industrial revolutions, but we can go way back.
It’s totally natural us to talk, but of course it was not the case a few thousand years before. The first language was the first singularity event in the history in my opinion. We gained the ability to form and share sophisticated ideas.
However, telling the same thing over and over again is not effective. Also people tend to forget things, so storing the information would be a pretty useful thing. Luckily our ancestors invented writing on paper, clay, stone and numerous other things. Later Gutenberg invented printing too. These are all smaller singularities.
In addition we should mention technological singularities too! Some animals use tools too, but making your own tool is a totally different thing. The first formed stone tool was also a turning point in history. But the next one is not so obvious. As the tools became more sophisticated and diverse, one could not master the making of all the tools. In order to progress, we had to specialize. One can’t be a true polyhistor, because life is too short.
Meanwhile human knowledge was probably already more than one person could learn. How to make fire? Which berry is poisonous? How to hunt the mammoth? And we are not even near the middle ages!
Industry 5.0 is already gaining traction, but we had 3 real industrial revolutions before that – not counting Industry 4.0. The power of steam, petrochemistry and electricity changed our lives. We could communicate and travel faster, further, cheaper. And we haven’t even mentioned the Internet!
Should I fear?
Frankly, the AI did introduce some opportunities and currently unsolved challenges. Despite the fearmongering, the AI is not going to turn everything upside down. It’s just the hype and clickbait. At the same time another dotcom bubble is forming. We should beware that.